The AK-47 assault rifle is one of the most classic firearms of all time. It has seen combat all across the world — in the both the hands of national armies and various non-governmental entities, like terrorist groups, insurgencies, and drug cartels. But did you know there was a predecessor to the AK-47?
That rifle is the SKS, which, arguably, is responsible for popularizing the 7.62x39mm cartridge used in the AK-47. Officially, it was known as the SKS-45. This rifle, in some senses, is fairly similar to the M1 Garand. It’s semi-automatic (meaning it fires one shot each time the trigger is pulled) and has an internal magazine (albeit one loaded with stripper clips instead of the en bloc clip used by the M1). The SKS holds ten rounds of ammunition.
Seeing action from World War II to the War on Terror
Some of the SKS prototypes saw action against Nazi Germany in World War II, but the rifle didn’t have a long service career with the Soviet Union. The AK-47’s introduction quickly shifted the stock of SKS rifles into the hands reserve units or allies. Other Soviet-friendly nations, including Communist China, produced it under license. The Chinese made at least eight million of these rifles.
In China, their version of the SKS, the Type 56 carbine, served for a long time alongside their version of the AK-47, called the Type 56 assault rifle. After the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese conflict, both of these weapons were replaced by the Type 81 assault rifle. Despite that, Russian and Chinese SKS rifles continue to see action across the world — the rifles are prominently mentioned in a 2003 report about guerrilla warfare in East Timor and have been spotted in the eastern portion of Ukraine, where Russian-backed rebels are fighting the central government.
Because the rifle is not capable of fully-automatic fire, the SKS has been imported into the United States for the civilian market, where it has gained a lot of popularity. The SKS may have first seen action over 70 years ago, but it will likely see use, in one capacity or another, for decades to come.
While the congressionally mandated close-air support tests between the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and A-10 Warthog wrapped up in July 2018, lawmakers may not be satisfied with the results as questions continue to swirl about how each performed.
“I personally wrote the specific provisions in the [Fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act] mandating a fly-off between the F-35 & A-10,” Rep. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican, tweeted July 13, 2018. “It must be carried out per Congressional intent & direction.”
McSally, a former A-10 pilot whose home state includes Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, said she had reached out to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein to “ensure an objective comparison.”
The requirement that the two aircraft go up against each other was included as a provision in the bill amid congressional concerns over plans to retire the A-10 and replace it with the F-35. McSally was one of the architects of the bill’s language.
The watchdog organization, which obtained the Air Force’s test schedule and spoke to unidentified sources relevant to the event, claimed that the limited flights also curbed the A-10’s strengths while downplaying the F-35’s troubled past and current program stumbles.
The JSF operational test team and other Initial Operational Test and Evaluation officials “faithfully executed” the F-35 vs. A-10 comparison test “in accordance with the IOTE test design approved in 2016,” and did so in compliance with 2017 NDAA requirements, said Army Lt. Col. Michelle L. Baldanza, spokeswoman for the Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOTE).
The testing happened from July 5 to 12, 2018, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, Baldanza said in an email.
“The [Joint Operational Test Team] will continue to schedule and fly the remaining comparison test design missions when additional A-10s become available,” she said.
She said the data points collected will add to the scope of the side-by-side comparison test.
The “matched-pair” fourth-generation A-10 and fifth-generation F-35A comparison test close-air support missions “are realistic scenarios involving a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), surface-to-air threats, some live and inert air-to-ground weapons employment, and varying target types,” which include “moving target vehicles and armored vehicles across different conditions,” such as day and night operations and low-to-medium threat levels, Baldanza said.
A-10 Thunderbolt II
(U.S. Air Force photo)
“The challenging scenarios are designed to reveal the strengths and limitations of each aircraft,” she said, referring to radars, sensors, infrared signatures, fuel levels, loiter time, weapons capability, electronic warfare and datalinks.
“Each test design scenario is repeated by both aircraft types while allowing them to employ per their best/preferred tactics and actual/simulated weapons loads,” Baldanza said. “Therefore, references to individual scenarios or specific weapons loadouts will not reflect the full scope of the comparison test evaluation.”
DOTE will analyze the flight test data collected and results will be compiled in an IOTE report as well as DOTE’s “Beyond Low-Rate Initial Production” report.
The reports will offer comparative analyses of “differences, strengths, and weaknesses of the F-35A versus the A-10 across the prescribed comparison test mission types [and/or] scenarios,” the DoD said.
For these reasons, the Air Force has consistently avoided calling the highly anticipated test a “fly-off.” Aviation enthusiasts and pilots have also said putting the two aircraft side-by-side remains an apples-to-oranges comparison.
In addition to a variety of rockets, missiles and bombs fastened to hardpoints under its wings, the A-10 most notably employs its GAU-8/A 30mm gun system, which produces an iconic sound that ground troops never forget.
“There’s just nothing that matches the devastation that that gun can bring,” A-10 pilot “Geronimo” said in the 2014 mini-documentary “Grunts in the Sky: The A-10 in Afghanistan.” The nearly four-year-old footage was made public in January 2018.
“The ground troops that I work with — when they think close-air support, they think A-10s,” Staff Sgt. Joseph Hauser, a Joint Terminal Attack Controller then based at Forward Operating Base Ghazni in Afghanistan, said in the footage.
Those qualities are what will get the fighter through the door before it performs a CAS-type role, officials say.
“In a contested CAS scenario, a JTAC would absolutely want to call this airplane in, and we practice just that,” said Capt. Dojo Olson, the Air Force’s F-35A Heritage Flight Team commander and a pilot with the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.
Olson spoke with Military.com during the Royal International Air Tattoo airshow here at RAF Fairford, England.
“We practice close-air support, and we practice contested close-air support, or providing close-air support in a battlespace that is not just totally permissive to fourth-generation airplanes,” he said.
“We foresee future combat environments where even in close-air support, even in counterinsurgency operations, there will be air defense systems,” added Steve Over, F-35 international business development director. “And you need to have sensors that will be able to find the target.”
He added that the F-35A model also has a Gatling gun — the GAU-22/A four-barrel 25mm gun, made by General Dynamics. “But more than likely it’s going to be using other precision-guided munitions” such as small-diameter or laser-guided bombs, he said.
“You can provide [CAS] from a precision-strike platform from tens of thousands of feet in the air, so there’s a lot of different types of” the mission, he said. “Getting up close and personal like an A-10? Of course, the airplanes … they’re apples and oranges.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Navy weapons developers are seeking a high-tech, longer range, and more lethal submarine-launched heavyweight Mk 48 that can better destroy enemy ships, submarines, and small boats, service officials said.
The service has issued a solicitation to industry, asking for proposals and information related to pursuing new and upgraded Mk 48 torpedo control systems, guidance, sonar, and navigational technology.
“The Mk 48 ADCAP (advanced capability) torpedo is a heavyweight acoustic-homing torpedo with sophisticated sonar, all-digital guidance and control systems, digital fusing systems, and propulsion improvements,” William Couch, Naval Sea Systems Command spokesman, told Warrior Maven in early 2018.
Naturally, having a functional and more high-tech lethal torpedo affords the Navy an opportunity to hit enemies more effectively and at further standoff ranges and therefore better compete with more fully emerging undersea rivals such as Russia and China.
The Mk 48 heavyweight torpedo is used by all classes of U.S. Navy submarines as their anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare weapon, including the Virginia class and the future Columbia class, Couch added.
A Mk 48 torpedo is 21 inches in diameter and weighs 3,520 pounds; it can destroy targets at ranges out to five miles and travels at speeds greater than 28 knots. The weapon can operate at depths greater than 1,200 feet and fires a 650-pound high-explosive warhead, available Navy and Lockheed data states.
Mk-48 ADCAP torpedo aboard USS Louisville.
Navy efforts to pursue new torpedo technologies are happening alongside a concurrent effort to upgrade the existing arsenal.
For several years now, the Navy has been strengthening its developmental emphasis upon the Mk 48 as a way to address its aging arsenal. The service restarted production of the Mk 48 torpedo mod 7 in 2016.
An earlier version, the Mk 48 Mod 6, has been operational since 1997 and the more recent Mod 7 has been in service since 2006.
Lockheed Martin has been working on upgrades to the Mk 48 torpedo Mod 6 and Mod 7, which consist of adjustments to the guidance control box, broadband sonar acoustic receiver, and amplifier components.
“The latest version of the Mk 48 ADCAP (advanced capability) is the mod 7 Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System. The Mk 48 ADCAP mod 7 CBASS torpedo is the result of a Joint Development Program with the Royal Australian Navy and achieved initial operational capability in 2006,” Couch said.
With Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System, or CBASS, electronics to go into the nose of the weapon as part of the guidance section, Lockheed and Navy developers explained.
CBASS technology provides streamlined targeting, quieter propulsion technologies, and an ability to operate with improved effectiveness in both shallow and deep water. Also, the Mod 7 decreases vulnerability to enemy countermeasures and allows the torpedo to transmit and receive over a wider frequency band, Lockheed and Navy developers say.
The new technology also involves adjustments to the electronic circuitry to allow the torpedo to better operate in its undersea environment.
Mk-48 ADCAP torpedo was loaded into USS California.
Modifications to the weapon have improved the acoustic receiver, replaced the guidance-and-control hardware with updated technology, increased memory, and improved processor throughput to handle the expanded software demands required to improve torpedo performance against evolving threats, according to Navy data on the weapon.
Improved propulsion, quieting technology, targeting systems, and range enhancements naturally bring a substantial tactical advantage to Navy undersea combat operations. Attack submarines are often able to operate closer to enemy targets and coastline undetected, reaching areas typically inaccessible to deeper draft surface ships. Such an improvement would also, quite possibly, enable attack submarines to better support littoral surface platforms such as the flat-bottomed Littoral Combat Ships. Working in tandem with LCS anti-submarine and surface warfare systems, attack submarines with a more capable torpedo could better identify and attack enemy targets near coastal areas and shallow water enemy locations.
A Military Analysis Network report from the Federation of American Scientists further specifies that the torpedo uses a conventional, high-explosive warhead.
“The MK 48 is propelled by a piston engine with twin, contra-rotating propellers in a pump jet or shrouded configuration. The engine uses a liquid monopropellant fuel,” the FAS analysis states.
Submarine operators are able to initially guide the torpedo toward its target as it leaves the launch tube, using a thin wire designed to establish and electronic link between the submarine and torpedo, the information says.
“This helps the torpedo avoid decoys and jamming devices that might be deployed by the target. The wire is severed and the torpedo’s high-powered active/passive sonar guides the torpedo during the final attack,” FAS writes.
In early 2018, Lockheed Martin Sippican was awarded a new deal to work on guidance and control technology on front end of the torpedo, and SAIC was awarded the contract for the afterbody and propulsion section, Couch explained.
The Mk 48, which is a heavy weapon launched under the surface, is quite different than surface launched, lightweight Mk 54 torpedoes fired from helicopters, aircraft and surface ships.
The Navy’s Mk 48 torpedo is also in service with Australia, Canada, Brazil, and The Netherlands.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
In would could herald a major escalation in America’s effort to fight ISIS in Syria, photos emerged in early March appearing to show a convoy of specially-modified U.S. armored vehicles rolling toward a town recently liberated by anti-ISIS allies.
Media outlets in Syria posted photos and video footage of what look like tricked-out M1126 Stryker infantry carrier vehicles rolling across the Euphrates river into Syria headed toward the town of Manbij, now the front line in the anti-ISIS coalition’s fight to take the last remaining militant stronghold in Raqqa.
The vehicles appeared to be carrying U.S. special operations troops and were flying American flags on their antennae.
Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Air Force Col. John Dorrian confirmed the influx of American armor in a March 4 statement via Twitter, saying the armored push was a “deliberate action” to reassure allies and to defeat ISIS.
The armored escalation comes just days after top Pentagon brass reportedly delivered a new plan to President Donald Trump on how to defeat ISIS. In a Feb. 28 speech to a joint session of Congress, Trump vowed to “demolish and destroy ISIS” and to “extinguish this vile enemy from our planet.”
Though details of the new plan have not been publicly released, the Washington Post reports one preferred option weighs heavily on an increase in U.S. combat power into Syria, including ground troops, helicopters and artillery. There are currently an estimated 500 U.S. special operations troops operating in Syria in a largely advisory role.
The Stryker vehicles rolling into Syria appear to have incorporated modifications that make it more like an ultra-up-armored Humvee as opposed to an armored combat vehicle. Some of the photos show an open crew compartment and a unique driver capsule that sits above the usual eye line.
A fleet of up-armored Humvees are also pictured rolling into Syria accompanying the Strykers.
The venerable 1911 has been in military service for over a century now — in every branch, in every war America’s fought. Once the old Model 1873 Colts proved themselves in the Philippines and the results of the Thompson-Legarde tests became known, the transition to the .45 caliber round was set.
And so it was, as articulated in the recommendation passed on to the War Department.
“…a bullet, which will have a shock effect and stopping effect at short ranges necessary for a military pistol or revolver, should have a caliber not less than .45.”
Enter Saint Browning, hallowed patron of automatic fire; John M. Browning began testing his iconic semi-auto in 1910. It was formally adopted by the Army in 1911, and by the Navy and Marine Corps two years later.
It’s a badass and much beloved pistol, and rightly so — that is, no doubt, why so many manufacturers continue to build them today.
Some are, of course, some better than others. But here are three beautifully crafted and ridiculously rugged modern versions of St. Browning’s famous design.
1. STI International DVC Tactical 2011 – Texas Proud
That’s correct, they call it the 2011; it’s a 21st century weapon, hand crafted in Texas.
STI International says they designed the weapon with tactical shooters in mind, incorporating the most functional features of their competition guns to do so. It’s coated in a low visibility DLC (Diamond Like Coating) finish, and uses a TiAIN (Titanium Aluminum Nitride), copper-tinted barrel. (We’re not sure if the copper tint is anything more than an aesthetic feature, and we don’t care — these things are sexier than fifty panty-less Suicide Girls in a tight t-shirt).
The DVC Tactical 2011 features slide lightening cuts, a threaded barrel, accessory rail, an aggressively stippled grip, and undercut trigger guard. Sights are standard, so you’d have to change them out if you’re going to put a can on it. Sights are Tritium Fixed Ledge, Trigger is 3.5 lbs with an ambi safety, and it uses a Dawson Precision Tool-Less guide rod.
It’s available in either .45 or 9mm.
•BBL- 5.00 inch Threaded Bull Barrel, TiAIN coating
While you’re on their website, you might also check out their H.O.S.T. series gun, which are built to host sights with an RMR plate. H.O.S.T. stands for Holographic Optic Slide Top. It’s designed to, you guessed it, host a sight, light, and/or suppressors. The slide top is milled to accept a micro-red dot optic, comes with a removable cover plate and adapter plates for a wide variety of pistol optics.
2. Wilson Combat EDC 9 – Arkansas Goodness for Decades
The Wilson Combat EDC is designed for “…hard use and everyday concealed carry.” It’s built with what they call their Enhanced Reliability System, and like all their guns is built in their facility near a small town in NW Arkansas. Bill Wilson and his outfit have been building guns there since the ’70s.
It’s a compact, carbon steel frame with a 4-inch Tri-Top slide, 4-inch stainless cone barrel with flush cut reverse crown, a fluted chamber, and fluted barrel. The ERS portion of the EDC9’s features includes a spring-loaded extractor, match grade fluted (single lug) barrel, adjustable elevation sights, and…
Ah, to hell with it, we’ll just let them tell you . They’ll do it better.
The “ERS” includes: robust spring-loaded external extractor that improves extraction in all conditions with all types of ammunition; A match grade, fluted barrel with single lug geometry to reduce cycling friction, enhance slide velocity, and improve feed reliability; Removal of the frame rails around the mag opening to further reduce friction and promote function in adverse shooting environments; A low mass, Tri-Top slide profile for reduced muzzle flip and enhanced cycling and our Tactical Adjustable Battlesight (TAB) for easy point of impact elevation adjustment. Wilson Combat
3. The Dan Wesson Discretion – New York State of Style
This 1911 was purpose built for the ever-increasing number of people who enjoy shooting with suppressors. That’s why it comes with an extended, match-grade stainless barrel and high Tritium sights. A ported slide, serrated trigger and competition-worthy trigger (as they describe it) all contrive to make it a pleasure to shoot.
Available in .45 or 9mm, it also features a ball end mill cut, fairly aggressive checkering on both the front strap and mainspring housing, a long, slotted trigger with a serrated face, and a 1913 Pic rail. The square hammer and top rib running down the slide give it a unique appearance.
While the United States Navy has not used the flying boat in a long time, other countries have kept these planes around. After all, they do have some advantages in a military setting. You can’t exactly ground them by bombing a runway, it’s easy to re-deploy them to a new forward base, and flying boats are versatile assets – just look at the PBY Catalina.
One of the countries that is keeping the flying boat alive is China. This country operated the Harbin SH-5 flying boat as a maritime patrol and search-and-rescue asset. It has a top speed of 345 miles per hour and a range of just under 3,000 miles, according to MilitaryFactory.com. It can carry 13,000 pounds of bombs, missiles, or torpedoes. The Chinese only built seven of these planes, and FlightGlobal.com notes that three are still in service.
China has not stopped with the SH-5. According to a report by CNBC.com, the AG600, a four-engine flying boat roughly the size of the 737 has just made its first flight. Officially, the aircraft is intended to carry out firefighting and search-and-rescue missions. MilitaryFactory.com reports that has a top speed of 311 miles per hour and a range of just over 2,700 miles. So far, at least 17 airframes have been ordered.
Some Chinese media outlets are reporting the AG600 – or a variant – could be useful for military operations in the South China Sea. China has been building “unsinkable aircraft carriers” in the maritime flashpoint, enabling the People’s Liberation Army Navy and People’s Liberation Army Air Force to operate fighters in the area. This sort of development prompted the United States military to retire its flying boats.
China’s continued pursuit of flying boats could be seen as a hedge against the United States being able to disable the island bases in the South China Sea. The AG600 does have the capability to haul cargo and specialists to either repair a base, or to maintain a presence until a base can be fixed.
Improvised explosive devices have long been a problem for American troops in the War on Terror. So robots have become a valuable tool in defeating these deadly devices.
But what about the bigger bombs? Well, sometimes you just need a bigger robot for the job. Especially when that IED is more along the lines of truck bomb than pipe bomb.
Thankfully, one is available. According to Endeavor Robotics, the Kobra is the answer for those who realize, “We need a bigger bot.”
The 710 Kobra comes in at 500 pounds between its 367-pound mobility platform (including the replaceable battery pack) and its 133-pound manipulator. But that size has 10 hours of endurance. That’s perfect for when you have a very tough bomb-disposal job to do.
The Kobra can also lift 330 pounds. That’s more than most NFL offensive and defensive linemen!
But it isn’t just weightlifting that make this robot impressive, it’s its reach. The Kobra can grab objects more than 11 feet above it, and it also can reach speeds of eight miles per hour. This robot also can ascend a 55-degree slope, and climb stairs. But the Kobra can also serve as a relay for other robots, and it carries various disruptors that can neutralize IEDs.
In short, this Kobra’s bite saves lives.
The Kobra also has four cameras, which help the operator remain aware of situations. The video below from Endeavor Industries has more on this robot, including an impressive display of the robot righting itself. In any case, this is one Kobra that grunts love to have along for the deployment.
For hundreds of years, humans have developed technologies that yield the maximum amount of enemy fatalities in efforts to protect the home front. As time progresses, so, too, do the methods military leaders use to strike fear into the hearts of their deadly opponents. One such threat that dates back hundreds of years is that of a chemical attack that can strike in an instant and indiscriminately kill.
Chemical attacks were deployed on the battlefields of World War I and, although they’re looked down on by much of today’s international community, they can still be deployed at any time. Now more than ever, U.S. troops are trained to protect themselves from potential hazards using specialized gear. This gear is ranked by Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) levels, which ensure that troops have proper protection against any amount of chemical threat.
Here’s how to protect yourself from a chemical attack
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Demetrius Morgan)
MOPP levels range from zero to four. They’re based on current chemical and biological threats and can elevate in minutes, so troops must always be prepared. Over garments, gas masks and hoods, boot covers, and gloves round out the gear necessary to protect troops.
MOPP level zero is simply having all the gear stated above on-hand and ready to don. Though chemical threats are unlikely, they do exist and service members need to be ready.
MOPP level one requires the troop to don over garments. This means a chemical threat is present, so troops must remain alert, as the hazard could escalate at any time.
As the threat increases, so do MOPP levels. MOPP level two mandates that ground pounders quickly put on the both over garments and boot covers.
Moving on to MOPP level three. Service members must don over garments, a gas mask and hood, and boot covers. At this level, the threat of coming in contact with hazardous vapors is high.
Lastly, MOPP level four — which is, by far, the scariest of them all. This level requires over garments, gas masks and hoods, gloves, and boot covers to be worn as a chemical or biological threat is present in the area.
Most sailors who go out on deployment don’t get into trouble. Others may find themselves on the wrong side of the shore patrol, though. Much of that can be minor, and is usually addressed with a loss of pay, or placing a sailor on restriction. But in some cases, that sailor needs to be confined.
Now, when you’re deployed to the Middle East, Mediterranean, or some other hot spot, it’s hard to ship the guy (or gal) back to the States to lock them up. So, on carriers and other large ships, the jail is brought with them – and it’s called the brig.
And in case you think that an upcoming battle earns some leeway for misbehavior, you’d best keep in mind that heading towards a fight won’t keep a sailor from getting tossed in the brig. In the book “Miracle at Midway,” historian Gordon Prange related how Marc Mitscher, captain of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV 8), threw a couple of sailors in the brig for minor infractions prior to the Battle of Midway.
In many cases where that is necessary, the sailors are sent to the brig after what is known as a “Captain’s Mast,” which is covered under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. According to Naval Orientation, the amount of time someone may be confined is limited. The exact limits depend on the rank of the commanding officer and the rank of the accused. The chart below from the linked manual explains those limits.
The video clip below is from the 2008 documentary mini-series “Carrier,” produced by Mel Gibson’s production company. It provides a tour of the brig on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) as it was in 2005.
It’s no secret that there are solid arguments against the American M4 rifle. Its “varmint” caliber chambering and fouling-prone gas impingement operating system have formed the foundation of complaints against the platform for decades.
In fact, U.S. Special Operations Command responded to those concerns in the early 2000s with the SOCOM Combat Assault Rifle program, which sought to replace aging M4 carbines with something more powerful and reliable. The one that was ultimately fielded turned out to be the Mk-17 SCAR Heavy battle rifle.
Chambered in 7.62×51 and feeding from detachable box-type magazines, the SCAR-H took the world-class ergonomics of the M4 and married them to a harder-hitting round and a more reliable operating method — a short-stroke, piston-driven action. The SCAR is an awesome weapon; literally every unit fielded with it raves about its performance, reliability, and incredibly-light recoil.
Plus, the short-stroke piston system is adjustable, so shooters can crank the gas to high if their SCAR becomes too dirty or fouled up in a prolonged firefight. This same system makes the platform more modular as well, since unlike the M4 it doesn’t require a different buffer or spring with different barrel lengths.
With all the inherent advantages of the SCAR, it’s hard not to wonder how someone didn’t invent something like it before.
Except they did. In fact, the same company responsible for the SCAR’s production and development designed a rifle with many of the same features more than 70 years ago – the FN FAL.
For the uninitiated, the FAL or Fusil Automatique Leger (light automatic rifle), isn’t some unknown prototype that never saw action. It was fielded by more than 90 countries, many of which belonged to NATO, earning it the nickname, “The Right Arm of the Free World.”
Having seen more than 60 years of combat use, the FAL also holds the distinction of being one of the few rifles to be fielded by two opposing armies, including during the Falklands War where Argentine and British forces both wielded FALs. Hell, the FAL has been fired in anger on nearly every continent on Earth, cementing its reputation as a die-hard reliable battle rifle.
Given that much of America’s war on terror groups takes place in the Middle East, it’s important to note that Israel’s armed forces, the IDF, equipped its soldiers with the FAL before replacing it with American-donated M-16 rifles.
In all fairness, some in the IDF claimed issues with the FAL in dusty and sandy conditions led to its replacement by the M-16. This claim should be viewed with heavy skepticism for several reasons, the largest being that no politician wants to be seen as the impetus behind equipping their military with, ‘cheaper’ equipment. Plus, the FAL served all over Africa without similar concerns emerging.
In fact, many believe the FAL should have been the rifle America adopted as its DMR for use in both the plains of Europe, and the Middle East.
Truth be told, the FAL isn’t perfectly suited for the role as it ships from the factory. If it were to see even a small fraction of the developmental evolution of the M16, it would have been a world-class fighting rifle in no time.
For instance, as it arrives from the factory, the FAL lacks an optics rail, and the available solutions aren’t suited to hard, combat use. However, the receiver itself could easily be modified by a competent engineer to incorporate a full-length, integral optics rail — much like the A3 version of the M4.
Just like the SCAR-H, the FAL features an adjustable gas block, similar heavy-duty box-type magazines and a robust, piston-driven action. The biggest difference between the FAL and the SCAR-H is the FAL’s lack of a railed receiver and its weight.
The SCAR utilizes extruded aluminum to reduce both cost and overall weight. The FAL, however, uses steel stampings and a milled receiver. The FAL’s use of all-steel components makes it very durable but also vastly heavier than the SCAR. Still, the mothballed M-14s that were pressed back into service post-9/11 were even heavier (especially with some of the accurizing chassis that were attached to them later).
Another advantage of the FAL over the M14 is its ability to retain proper zero under harsh conditions. The M14 and its civilian counterpart, the M1A, both have a bad reputation for losing battle zero if the upper handguard is disturbed. Plus, since the rifle uses a hunting-style stock, the action needs to be bedded (essentially a fancy term for glued) into the stock to ensure it doesn’t shift inside it.
Overall, the FAL is objectively a superior combat arm than the M14; one designed for harder use, while offering similar performance. The FAL isn’t an ideal designated marksman rifle in its current form. But it could have been an incredible asset to infantry dealing with distant treats and priority targets.
The Hyuga is the lead ship in Japan’s first class of aircraft carriers since World War II.
Okay, they call them “helicopter destroyers,” but put the Hyuga next to a Kongo-class destroyer and a Nimitz-class carrier — or even a World War II Essex — what does Hyuga look like?
According to MilitaryFactory.com, Hyuga displaces 14,000 tons — about as much as the carrier USS Ranger (CV 4). The Hyuga holds 11 helicopters, typically a mix of SH-60J Seahawk and MCH-101 helicopters. Normally, she carries three SH-60s and one MCH-101. The similarly-sized Giuseppe Garibaldi, in service with the Italian Navy, is capable of operating AV-8B Harriers.
However, she also carries a suite of weapons, including a 16-cell Mk 41 vertical launch system that carries RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles and RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROCs. This makes her name pretty appropriate. The previous Hyuga was a hybrid battleship-carrier that didn’t work out so well.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH-181) underway in the Pacific Ocean as U.S. Navy Sea Hawk helicopters hover nearby. (Photo: U.S. Navy)
The Hyuga has one sister ship, the Ise, which entered service in 2011. Two larger “helicopter destroyers,” the Izumo and Kaga, are also in service. The Kaga was commissioned earlier this year, while the Izumo was commissioned in 2015. Both of those vessels displace 19,500 tons, about the size of the British Invincible-class carriers.
A video about the Hyuga — and why she is so important to Japan — is available below:
Imagine you’re in the Air Force, working the flightline during a war with China when, suddenly, a Chinese J-20 is seen nearby. It’s about to come rain death on your base and — most importantly — you. Luckily, the ground-based laser defenses zap it out of the sky before the dorm rats even get a chance to raid the Burger King.
The Air Force probably never saw its High-Energy Laser Flexible Prototype that way, but it’s definitely how it could have played out. But we’ll never know, because the lasers are gone for now.
Artist rendering of the High-Energy Laser Flexible Prototype in action.
The military isn’t giving up on lasers entirely, despite the recent cancellations of laser weapons systems by both the Air Force and Army. The Pentagon just isn’t sure where the focus of directed energy should be right now. The purpose of the original High-Energy Laser Flexible Prototype was to build a ground-based defense system, then scale it to individual aircraft defenses. The Air Force is no longer interested in that direction.
“We’re trying to understand where we actually want to go,” Michael Jirjis, who oversees the Air Force strategic development, planning, and experimentation office’s directed-energy efforts, told Air Force magazine. “Internally to the Air Force, we’ll hold another DE summit sometime later in the spring to understand senior leader investment and where they want to go for the community at large.”
Firms like Lockheed-Martin are still developing laser defenses for tactical aircraft.
But developing lasers and microwave systems will continue, just not with the HEL, which would have been operational around March 2020 if everything went as planned. The scrapping of the program took little more than a month after requests for proposals were sent out.
David Audet, chief of the Mission Equipment and Systems Branch in the Soldier Performance Optimization Directorate, at the Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Soldier Center, is gearing up his team for the next User Touch Point activities to explore exoskeleton options in late January 2019.
“As we explore the more mature exoskeleton options available to us and engage users, the more we learn about where the possible value of these systems is to Army operations,” said Audet.
“Before the Army can consider investing in any development above what industry has done on their own, we need to make sure that users are on board with human augmentation concepts and that the systems are worth investing in. The Army is not ready yet to commit. NSRDEC [RDECOM Soldier Center] has a lead role in working with PEO-Soldier and the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, to determine whether or not a longer-term investment in fielding new technologies is justifiable. But this is what we do best. We find the options and create the partnerships to help us figure it out.”
Soldiers from Army’s 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, were able to get hands on and try two of the current human augmentation technologies (pictured here) being pursued by the RDECOM Soldier Center. The soldier on the left is wearing the ONYX and the soldier on the right is wearing the ExoBoot.
(RDECOM Soldier Center)
Recent media has brought a lot of attention to the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Controls, or LMMFC, ONYX, a Popular Science award recipient for 2018.
As innovative as it is, and with all the attention on the Soldier Center’s .9 million Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) award, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and lose perspective of the overall work the Soldier Center is actually doing.
Out of the 48-month phased effort, roughly 0K has been put on the LMMFC OTA — currently focused on having enough systems to take to the field for operational evaluation. Although performing, the technology has yet to prove itself in a full operational exercise before moving forward. And while LMMFC is highly confident in their product and continues to invest their funding on further developing the system for commercial use, the Soldier Center is also looking at other technologies.
Located in Maynard, Massachusetts, Dephy, Inc.’s ExoBoot is another entrant in the program. The Dephy ExoBoot is an autonomous foot ankle exoskeleton that was inspired by research done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under collaboration with the Army. It is currently under consideration for evaluation during the third and fourth quarter of 2019. Brigadier General David M. Hodne has worn the ExoBoot during Soldier Center program updates and is quite intrigued by the capability. User feedback will determine if both systems move forward and under which considerations.
“Under ideal conditions, we would favor a full development effort,” said Audet. “However, given the push for rapid transition and innovation, we can save the Army a lot of time and money by identifying and vetting mature technologies, consistent with the vision of the Army Futures Command, or AFC.
(David Kamm, RDECOM Soldier Center)
“In order to achieve the goal of vetting and providing recommendations, NSRDEC [the Soldier Center] and PEO-Soldier are strong partners, teamed up to work with third party independent engineering firms such as Boston Engineering out of Waltham, Massachusetts. The engineering analysis of systems will provide an unbiased system-level analysis of any of the technologies under consideration, following rigorous analysis of the capabilities as they exist, the operational parameters provided by users and assessment of how humans will use and interact with the systems.”
“We are confident products will succeed or — at a minimum — fill a gap we have not been able to address by any other materiel or training means,” said Audet.
“We will be prepared to transition, but we know there is a road ahead before we get there. We aren’t committing to anything more than to bring the systems to a demonstration and educate the community at large on what these preliminary technologies can offer. In the meantime, we add a layer of third party independent analysis as a reassurance policy that we are mitigating bias and staying laser focused on user needs and meeting the demands of the future warfighting landscape.”